Dr HAINES (Indi) (18:34): In the lead-up to the October budget, I met with the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction to put forward my Local Power Plan. The Local Power Plan is a detailed blueprint to help regional Australians benefit from renewable energy.
Over the next 30 years Australia’s entire coal fleet is set to retire and be replaced by renewable energy. In the same period $1 trillion will be spent on our electricity system. The vast bulk of our new renewable energy system will be built in regional Australia in a sun belt stretching from Esperance to Gippsland and Cape York. But, without proper planning, everyday communities will miss out on the benefits of this boom. The Local Power Plan responds to this opportunity by inserting everyday Australians into the heart of this renewable energy transition.
The Integrated Systems Plan from AEMO projects that, over the next 30 years, Australia will install 47 gigawatts of new grid-scale renewables like solar and wind farms—the equivalent of around 16,000 wind turbines; 21 gigawatts of dispatchable energy like batteries, pumped hydro and virtual power plants—the equivalent of five new Snowy Hydro schemes; and a fivefold increase in distributed solar generation like rooftop panels, which would see around 10 million households benefit from rooftop solar.
Just today the New South Wales government announced a groundbreaking plan to attract $32 billion worth of private investment in renewables infrastructure over a decade, generating 6,300 construction jobs and 2,800 ongoing jobs and lower prices substantially. The question is: who benefits from this; and are the regional communities where this will take place brought along in the process?
Communities want to be involved, Minister. Over the last nine months, I’ve been speaking to regional communities across the country like the Walwa Bush Nursing Centre, the Bonnie Doon Recreation Reserve and the Yackandandah Community and their battery, and many more that want to access these benefits.
The Upper Murray wants to build local renewables as part of the bushfire recovery. A local school got in touch just last week, saying they have excess land and would love to do something like this. Councils in Melbourne are contacting me, saying they’d love to go 100 per cent renewable by purchasing renewables from our regional communities. The Local Power Plan is a way to unlock these benefits for the whole country, not just my electorate.
So, first, the Local Power Scheme will establish 50 local power hubs across regional Australia to support communities to develop their own renewable energy projects. Each hub can provide technical and project support to community energy groups and work with them to access a new $310 million local power fund to provide strategic development capital.
Secondly, in the Plan, the Underwriting New Community Investment, or UNCI scheme, will provide financial certainty to new mid-scale energy generation and storage projects that are at least 51 per cent community owned. The UNCI scheme could unlock billions of dollars of private investment to support communities to build their local energy independence and resilience.
Thirdly, the Community Renewable Investment Scheme, or the CRIS, will implement a new requirement for any new large-scale renewable developments in Australia to enable local communities to purchase 20 per cent of the project value.
There are so many benefits to this, and I have three questions for the minister. Minister, why didn’t you provide funding for the local power plan in the budget? Why didn’t you provide any funding for local community energy in general? And what are the government’s plans to support everyday Australians in regional Australia to benefit from the renewables boom that’s already starting to unfold?